My Ironman Journey

So Far, So Good!

akhilvizby akhilvizAug 9th 2013
A week has already passed since I set up base camp in Gibraltar. Time flies when you're having fun! I suppose everyone's idea of 'fun' is different. In may case, spending the majority of my day on a bike saddle, in the sea or in my running shoes is great FUN!

Being back home is such a great feeling. Knowing that you can return home after a long bike ride to find fresh, hot food on the kitchen table is such a relief. The fact that I can take a mid-morning or mid-afternoon nap is also convenient for rest and recovery purposes which enables me to keep training without fatiguing.

I must thank my mum for pampering me and providing me with the VIP treatment! She's always asking me when I'll be returning home from training to ensure lunch/dinner is cooked upon my arrival. My training kit is always washed and ready to be soaked in my sweat. Without her, I would not have been able to put in as much training time or refuel my body adequately. She cooks the most amazing food which I devour like an animal and yet to my surprise, I have lost a kilo since being here! I didn't know I had any weight to lose ;-)

Over the past week I have accumulated a few kilometers under my belt. My first day on the road (Friday 2nd of August) was a relatively easy day which I used to set-up my bike and take it for a test ride to ensure it was ready for a long ride the following day. Saturday was an early start where I met some fellow triathletes at the Gibraltar/Spain frontier. This border is now a famous landmark due to the headlines across all the worldwide news channels! We rode from Gibraltar to Gaucin via Jimena De La Frontera which is a route comprising of fast, flat roads and a nice 10km climb up a mountain! Not for the faint hearted ;-) We agreed to meet at 0730 but John Paul Peralta slept through his alarm and we therefore (very kindly) waited for him to arrive at the frontier. Besides, it was an excuse to enjoy a pre-ride coffee. It was a long, hard ride of about 125km which I followed up with a 1 hour run at a pace slightly faster than my intended Ironman race pace. I was strong on the run but definitely felt the effects of dehydration due to the strong mid-day heat. Luckily for me, my sister followed me on her bike and was basically a moving, talking aid station. Thanks Meenal!

Sunday was an easy recovery ride to a nearby town called Castellar. Approximately 25 cyclists turned up to satisfy their addiction for a slice of Andalusian toast and coffee! As I described in my previous blog, the social aspects of group riding is what turned me into a triathlon addict!

On Monday I ran around and up the Rock to get a mix of flat road running and quad crunching hill running! My sister; Meenal and I cycled that evening as she too has 'Ironman fever' and plans of competing in a Half Ironman event next year. Training with her forces me to keep my training intensity low but she benefits from trying to keep up with me. A 'win-win' situation for both of us!

Mid-week I cycled long to Gaucin again but this time via Casares. It was a challenging ride (approx 130km) with beautiful scenery (see route and elevation chart below) and once again I was pushing hard to hold on to the back wheels of Robert Matto and Mark Chichon! I followed this ride with a low intensity run in the evening with Meenal.

I have been swimming during most lunchtimes as it is when the other swimmers and triathletes have the time to fit in their swim sessions. I have been put through my paces by the likes of Ernest Borrell, Chris Walker, Mark Francis and Sean Randall. Swimming in the sea is a lot tougher due to the waves and currents but I am still able to maintain a good swimming pace. I am usually faster when I swim at the West Country Open Water Lake in Bristol where the conditions are much calmer. Some might argue that salt water provides more buoyancy but I do not want to get involved in these discussions! I enjoy the views of the sea bed and the colourful fish swimming swimming beneath me. On the other hand, swallowing a gallon of salt water upon every breath isn't very tasteful. A can of coke is my post-swim recovery drink!
So Far, So Good!

The Numbers

Since I am an Engineer, I love to handle data on spreadsheets and summarise the figures into fancy looking charts and graphs. I know it sounds odd but I'm sure I echo the voice of all engineers in this regard!

I have therefore summarised my training efforts over the past week with the bar charts below. Accounting for all three disciplines, I have accumulated a total distance of 544.17km which equates to a total time of 25 hours and 22 minutes! YIKES! I must point out that the total time does NOT account for coffee stops ;-)

If I remember correctly, the longest training week I have ever performed is 19 hours (alongside my full-time job). I have set a new personal best this week! Will I be able set another personal best next week? I'm afraid you'll have to wait patiently for next week's blog to find out!
So Far, So Good!
So Far, So Good!

The Tri-Life

Almost all triathletes are time-crunched due to the fact that the sport requires having to train for three different disciplines. Therefore juggling a full-time job and 10-15 hours of training per week requires immense dedication and a focused mind. In my case, I fit the majority of my training during the early hours before work. I usually wake up at 4.30am every morning to fit in 2-3 hours of training before work but I am then in bed by 9pm every evening. I prefer training before work as it 'wakes me up' and the after-effects keep me 'buzzing' for the rest of the day. I am far more alert at my job if I exercise beforehand and I have become accustomed to the routine. Time management is very important too. I pack my clothes, prepare my breakfast, lunch and snacks the night before as I directly go to the office after my training session. Upon arrival at the office, I take a quick shower, get dressed, head off to my desk and surprisingly, I arrive before the majority of my colleagues! I gobble my breakfast whilst I'm waiting for my computer to fire-up and I keep coffee/tea breaks to a minimum throughout the day. I also tend to eat my lunch at my desk simply because I usually eat at around 2pm! Almost all my colleagues have their lunch at 12noon which is too early for me. Eating at my desk enables me to catch up with the latest news online and take a sneak peak at online triathlon shopping websites ;-) My drawers are full of snacks such as mixed nuts, cereal bars and fruit which I bring into the office over the weekends when I do my weekly grocery shopping. The fact that I live less than a mile away from the office allows me to reach home within minutes after work and then head off for another training session. All these factors contribute to the total time saved and hence I manage to fit in enough hours of training and sleep each day (and night!). As the saying goes, 'if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail'! The Tri-Life is extremely intense and exhaustive. I currently do not have any other commitments but those triathletes who work full-time, train and support a family are the true role models and heroes in the sport. These fellow triathletes keep advising me to make the most of my singleness and independence as my ability to put in the training hours may change in the future ;-)

Most of my training is done during the harsh British winter even when the roads are covered with a blanket of snow. It is dangerous but fun! I remember on a few occasions when my water bottle froze during a bike ride! Not only did I have to defrost my water bottle when I returned home, but I also had to defrost my toes and fingers!

My social life has suffered slightly as I always decline invitations to social activities on weekdays as I have to wake up at 'stupid o'clock' the following morning. I do however make to time to catch up on this aspect of my life over the weekends. I always treat myself every Saturday night to ensure a balanced lifestyle. I choose Saturday nights as the mornings are always scheduled for a long bike ride. I therefore pat myself on the back by eating out with friends and enjoying their company. It also allows me to brag about the number of kilometers I've cycled that morning ;-). By the way, when I mention 'eat out', I'm implying a feast! Those who have dined with me have been astonished by the amount of food that I can swallow and my stomach has been labelled as the 'bottomless pit'! This brings me onto a very important aspect in my life; nutrition, which I will talk about in my next blog.

Why do I do it?

Having described the method to my madness above, you may be wondering why I put myself through this. What satisfaction do I get by training so much? Where do I find the motivation? Why torture myself?

These are the sort of questions I get asked regularly and I always reply with the same answers. My source of motivation is my desire to prove that anything is possible. I was brought up and encouraged to aim for the sky and hit the ceiling. Whatever task I perform, I ensure I put in a 120% and not just the mere 100%. I have always been competitive and it is this mentality that lead me to realising that completing an Ironman is possible.

I participated in my first triathlon nearly two years ago and after that event I decided I was going to participate in an Ironman. Why? Doing so would make me the Youngest Gibraltarian to complete one. THAT was my source of motivation! This year my source of motivation is representing Great Britain at the European Championships. To achieve my goals I have had to make some sacrifices which have been respected by my family and close friends. I appreciate their continued support and they play a part in my achievements.

Apart from the personal aspirations described above, I thoroughly enjoy the social aspects of the sport. In my previous blog I mentioned the 'coffee and toast' addiction that Gibraltarian Cyclists posses. As the saying goes; a picture speaks a thousand words and this is reflected in the picture below.

When I first moved to Bristol back in October 2011, I only knew of work colleagues. Getting involved with triathlon and joining various triathlon, swimming and cycling clubs opened the door to new friends who share the same interests and hobbies. It helped me settle into my professional life which was a steep learning curve from student life! As a student you can get away with sleeping through lectures, study at your own convenience and wear clothing that you find most comfortable. As a professional, you have to be in the office everyday and must dress accordingly. I am fortunate to be working for Atkins Aerospace due to the flexible working hours and tremendous support from my colleagues.

Keeping myself occupied is important as I tend to get bored very easily! I am not the kind of person who can sit in front of a TV or computer all day. I prefer the outdoors and love to explore the sites and landmarks in the nearby areas. Again, I found triathlon as a means to fill up my time during the weekends. Cycling all over Bristol and South East Wales has exposed me to beautiful landscapes and as a result, I know my way around these areas without having to use GPS or Sat-Nav!

In fact, I met a fellow triathlete last year in one of my training rides and we are now extremely good friends and training buddies! I met Robert Ford last summer and he told me of his intention of participating in his first Ironman this year. Twelve months later, I can proudly state that Rob completed Ironman Zurich two weeks ago with a magnificent performance. Through Rob I also made friends with Dawn Riden, Chris Gardner and Mike Jones. These guys are a great bunch and we have been meeting up over the past few months for our long Saturday bike rides. Dawn also competed at Ironman Zurich two weeks ago with a spectacular performance and has also signed up to run the Thames Path 100 miler! If you thought I was crazy, think again! This girl is an Iron(wo)man with some Iron Legs and an Iron Mind! She is a very strong character and I wish her all the best in her running endeavours! Mike and Chris are currently training for Ironman Wales and their philosophy is 'If I do an Ironman, I'll make it worthwhile by doing one of the toughest in the world'! Hats off to these two for choosing IM Wales as their debut race and with their continued efforts, they will leave the rest of the field to dust! Thank you for riding with me over the past few months because if it wasn't for our 'groupage', my Saturday rides would have been solo sessions! A night of carnage is on the cards in September ;-)

As you can see, participating in any sport is a fantastic opportunity to socialise with those outside of your workplace. Training in groups allows you to work together and push each other to your limits. It provides another means of meeting people with similar interests and hobbies and more importantly, there are countless health benefits!

I owe a lot to triathlon as it has changed my outlook towards life. I am sure you can find your own source of motivation and set yourself a personal target. The point to remember is that whilst pursuing these activities, you are realistic and tangible with your ambitions. Don't aim to beat your friend but instead aim to beat yourself! With that mindset you will definitely enjoy whatever activity you get involved in and any improvement in your own performance will boost your confidence and keep your spirits high!
So Far, So Good!
adamnewellby member: adamnewell, Aug 14th 2013 11:04
Great stuff Akhil, but you know what I would say to your post work out drink. A can of coke is not the Whey to go man!!!
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